Customer Service in healthcare


This article on a correlation between customer satisfaction and hospital efficiency http://bit.ly/qBOG3Y caused me to stop and think a little about customer service in healthcare.

We go into a hospital to address a medical issue. It is certainly reasonable to have an expectation that the issue will be addressed and resolved in some manner. If it were, would we not be satisfied? Is that how hospitals should define customer satisfaction? You leave here better than when you arrived, so be happy!

Is there a risk in taking that perspective that we view patients as cattle more than as customers. Afterall they are customers. In one form or another, they have paid hard-earned cash for a service. Is purchasing healthcare any different from purchasing services with your accountant or hiring an lawyer or even purchasing a motor vehicle, a television or your groceries? In each of those instances would you be tolerant of a poor customer experience?

If not then why expect people to be tolerant of a poor customer experience when they come to your hospital?

Would you want to be treated in your hospital, or would you want your family to be treated there? If not, why not? These are the things that need to be fixed.

There is some differences between purchasing hospital services and that of purchasing a motor vehicle. A vist to hospital is often an emotion charged event. So let’s compare hospitals with another emotion fuelled service provider, a funeral provider. The last time you worked with a funeral provider, how were you treated? I suspect with dignity, in a quiet, efficient manner, where you were provided with all the information and made to feel comfortable. Is that what people would say after leaving your hospital?

Customer service and creating a customer experience is not about statistics or even feedback processes; it is a cultural difference between one provider and the next. Customer service doesnt even start at the top, it is something everyone in the organisation does intuitively. It is a created and ingrained culture. It is not accidental, it is something that needs to be developed, practiced, showcased, discussed, refined and practiced over and over again, every day with every transaction, whether it be a customer needing treatment or a colleague looking to develop more efficient work practices. Both groups are customers. They deserve the best.

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About John Coxon

Principal consultant for John Coxon & Associates, a management consultancy working with boards and management teams in healthcare, aged care and not for profit organisations to develop effective strategic planning processes and social enterprise business plans
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